Protestors just say no to Dutch cannabis ban

Wed May 2, 2012 10:32am EDT
 
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By Svebor Kranjc and Thomas Escritt

MAASTRICHT/TILBURG, The Netherlands (Reuters) - Tourists puffed on spliffs in the streets of southern Dutch cities and defiant coffee-shops sold joints to visitors in protest against a ban on selling cannabis to foreigners which took effect on Tuesday.

In Maastricht, a short drive from both the German and the Belgian borders, protesters waved banners decorated with marijuana leaves and slogans such as "Dealers Wanted" and "Stop discrimination for Belgium".

In the main square, a few hundred demonstrators staged a sit-in and about 50 openly smoked joints alongside a two-meter-(6 ft)-long fake spliff.

The new law rolls back the Netherlands' traditionally relaxed attitude to narcotics and clamps down on the millions of foreign "drugs tourists" who flock each year to coffee shops, famed for dispensing soft drugs.

From Tuesday, the cafes in three southern provinces close to the German and Belgian borders can only sell cannabis to registered members. Authorities say the move will reduce crime.

"Now we can't enter any more, outrageous, it's discrimination," a Belgian smoker, who gave his name as Cannabas, told Reuters.

Maastricht's mayor, Onno Hoes, was presented with a petition signed by about 300 coffee shops and other outlets asking for the ban to be scrapped.

The city's Easy Going coffee shop closed its doors to all customers in protest, saying police would simply have to handle dealing on the street instead.   Continued...

 
A man and a woman hold signs which read, "19357 deaths caused by tobacco, zero by cannabis" and "3855 deaths caused by liquor and zero by cannabis" (R) during a protest march against a ban on selling cannabis to foreigners, in front of the town hall in Maastricht May 1, 2012. Tourists puffed on spliffs in the streets of southern Dutch cities and defiant coffee-shops sold joints to visitors in protest against the ban which took effect on Tuesday. REUTERS/Michael Kooren